Questions on Fang intro


1) pp. xvi Discuss the claim of charming villain Harry Lime concerning the relation of social turmoil and innovation.


2) pp. xvii Contrast Native American IT (information technology) with Fang’s statement that ancient Greece is the origin of freedom from the constraints of memory.


3) pp. xix Critique Fang’s media determinist claims (the second to last bullet point). Pp. xxiii first paragraph, same question.


4) pp. xxiv-xxv What does Tiananmen Square demonstrate in terms of the relation between IT and social power? What was required at the technological level?


5) pp. xxix Explain the “coca-colonization” debate. How does this concern contrast with the views of the Tiananmen Square protestors? Why would it be ironic that the Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein (see p. xxviii) banned certain types of IT in response to the coca-colonization debate?


Questions on Fang ch 1


6) pp. 1 Why should there be a relation between the rise of state societies and new information systems? Provide some non-western examples. Why would it be important to include non-Western, non-state societies in such comparisons?


7) pp. 1-2 What happened from around 8,000 BC to 3,700 BC in Sumer (present day Iran that contributed to the invention of writing?


8) pp. 2-3 What did the Babylonians and Egyptians (around 3,000 BC) contribute to the invention of writing?


9) pp. 4-5: How does the social turmoil in Egypt around 2,000 BC illustrate the relations between IT and social power? Discuss the issue of media determinism for this case.


10) p. 3-7 Compare various early writing surfaces. Discuss the following in terms of the definition of information: “Papyrus would prove to be less enduring than the alphabet it carried.”


11) p. 8 Use Fang’s description of Phoenician innovation to critique the following claim (not found in Fang): “A strong centralized state is required for developing new information technologies.”


12) p. 9 what were the advantages and disadvantages of the Greek use of writing?


13)p. 11 Critique the primitivism in Durant’s description of tribal culture. Compare to Fang’s extolling the virtues of Socrates (p. 12) and the “lamp of reason” (p. 14).

Questions on Fang ch 2


14) pp. 18 Describe the problems of the Dark Ages in Europe.


15) p. 21-22,35 Describe the Chinese inventions of  writing, paper, and xylographic printing. Why didn’t they go on to have an information technology revolution?


16) p. 22-23 Describe the two roles of Islamic culture in the origins of printing in Europe. How did this origin affect its reception by Europeans? What was the significance of this scarce knowledge for “Dark Ages” (early modern) labor history?


17) p.24-25 What two institutions played the most important role in early modern “book culture” (ie book production and consumption)?


18) pp. 26-27 what blocked the potential for the spread of book culture before Gutenberg?


19) pp. 32-33 Describe the positive feedback between printing and literacy.


20) pp. 33-34 Describe the positive feedback between printing and early modern social changes.


21) pp. 36-39 Compare Gutenberg’s movable type press of 1450 to the Asian history of printing. Why did it succeed in Europe first?